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Into the Gray Zone: A Neuroscientist Explores the Border Between Life and Death Hardcover – 20 Jun 2017
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"A fantastically thought provoking book that will cause you to question the most essential ideas you have about what it means to be alive, and what it means to be you. Adrian Owen is not just one of our top scientists, but a great storyteller."
--Daniel J. Levitin, New York Times bestselling author of This Is Your Brain on Music and The Organized Mind
"Immensely moving, profound, and engaging, with a zest for life and science that bubbles off the page...Owen has lived the dream of a neuroscientific discovery that changes thinking about a terrifying medical condition and how patients and their families can be given the answers they crave. Reading how this happened will make you alternately laugh, gasp and cry."
--John Duncan, author of How Intelligence Happens
"Fascinating...With remarkable clarity, Owen punctuates his findings with concise dispatches on the human condition and the disparities between what is considered quality of life and what some consider an inhumane, dysfunctional existence....A striking scientific journey that draws hopeful attention to how the brain reacts, restores, and perseveres despite grave injury."
"Vivid, emotional, and thought-provoking . . . Owen's story of horror and hope will long haunt readers."
"Meshing memoir with scientific explication, Owen reveals how functional magnetic resonance imaging can probe the deep space of trapped minds. It's a riveting read, from the march of technology and tests for neural responses--such as imagining playing a game of tennis--to extraordinary personal accounts of the 'gray zone' by partially recovered patients."
"Into the Gray Zone is required reading for anyone who wants to explore the outer limits of consciousness, and the human spirit. Neuroscientist Adrian Owen takes us on gripping, often harrowing journeys into the most mysterious realm of human experience: the twilight zone between life and death. He narrates this real-life scientific thriller with authority, compassion and unexpected humor. Into the Gray Zone is a riveting read that will open your eyes, your heart, and your mind."
--Joshua Horwitz, War of the Whales: A True Story, Winner, 2015 PEN Literary Award for Best Science Writing
"What an amazing read! Adrian Owen takes us on a personal and scientific journey, which leads to the discovery of lost minds hidden within the damaged brains of patients in a vegetative state. The book is a real page-turner, both because it unpacks the complexities of modern neuroscience in an accessible way and because it directly confronts profound ethical questions."
--Melvyn Goodale, PhD, coauthor of Sight Unseen: An Exploration of Conscious and Unconscious Vision
"Into the Gray Zone is both a crystal-clear description of cutting-edge neuroscience from one of the pioneers in the field, and a set of intensely personal stories about patients in the twilight of consciousness. Owen deftly knits these two strands together to raise fascinating ethical questions about human identity and value. The result is one of the most moving and gripping science books you're ever likely to read."
--Daniel Bor, author of The Ravenous Brain: How the New Science of Consciousness Explains Our Insatiable Search for Meaning
"This is an unforgettable book. Owen weaves together stories of human resilience in the face of extraordinary adversity with an account of his own ground-breaking research, and in so doing takes us on a deeply moving journey to the very frontiers of consciousness. I couldn't put it down."
--Tim Bayne, author of The Unity of Consciousness
"As a journalist observing Adrian Owen's pioneering research over the years, I've grown used to the media sensation created by his descents into the twilight world between death and consciousness. But to understand the profound impact of his work on his many patients, told in his own words, is truly moving and inspirational. Though their experiences are disturbing, Into the Gray Zone provides an uplifting testament to the power of scientific curiosity and the extraordinary resilience of the human spirit. This book delivers an eloquent message: even in the most desperate circumstances, there can be hope."
--Roger Highfield, former editor of New Scientist and coauthor of SuperCooperators and The Arrow of Time
About the Author
Adrian Owen is currently the Canada Excellence Research Chair in Cognitive Neuroscience and imaging at The Brain and Mind Institute, Western University, Canada. He has spent the last twenty years pioneering breakthroughs in cognitive neuroscience. Among the media outlets that have featured Adrian's research are The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The New Yorker, Nature, The Lancet, Science, and The New England Journal of Medicine. A resident of London, Ontario, he can be found at OwenLab.uwo.ca.
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His own relationships were fraught with brain damage – that of his mother and his ex. His own childhood was marred by the medical torture of cancer. But the unshakeable enthusiasm, joy at discovery and excitement of at achievements large and small have made for a breakthrough career, and a clear acceleration towards the day when brains will be able to communicate.
The stories are of men and women of all ages, seemingly vegetative. Owen’s early research on the brain led him to the realization that different thoughts are processed in different areas, because our brains are that specialized. There is a place in the brain that does nothing but process places, and another that does nothing but process actions. If you think of a place where you took action, your brain will hand off the thought from one section to the other. Owen’s breakthrough idea was to put vegetative patients in an fMRI scanner and tell them to think of an action (playing tennis) for “no” or walking through their home for “yes”. The live scans now possible show the various areas of the brain light up in response to yes/no questions, proving these inanimate people are still in there, still aware, still fighting. Possibly one in five is conscious enough to provide this sort of “conversation”.
More remarkable, perhaps, is that some recover. Owen has had face to face conversations with patients who remember his experiments. Their experiences, their observations, and their trials are beyond gripping – they are heart-rending.
The lesson, if there is one, is to treat vegetative patients with total respect. They want to know names, titles and roles. They want explanations of what treatment they are about to receive. The pointless chatter and undeserved reinforcement are very much appreciated if not critical to their potential appreciation and quality of life.
Into the Gray Zone is a shock and an inspiration. There are surprises at every turn. There is suspense, success, failure and reward. It is a book of life.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
The author by means of case studies explores the consciousness of a number of patients. It makes me wonder about the 75-85% that cannot be reached.
This book was helpful in learning more about this challenging injury.